Quality Of Work Life And Employee Engagement Management Essay

Quality Of Work Life And Employee Engagement Management Essay
Abstract
The road to recovery from the global recession is proving to be long, windy and rocky. While some indicators are showing slow signs of improvement, the outlook for 2012 remains uncertain with forecasts for slow growth. The global recession has taken its toll on employees as pay freezes, benefit cuts, and layoffs permeate the workforce, making it more difficult to maintain high levels of engagement. Against this backdrop, it is more important than ever for employers to develop and maintain a highly engaged workforce in equilibrium with the quality of work-life.


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In the era of scientific management, QWL was based on extrinsic traits of jobs: salaries, safety and hygiene, and other tangible benefits of the workplace. The human relations approach stressed that, while extrinsic rewards are important, intrinsic traits of job: autonomy, challenges and task contents, are key predictors of productivity and efficiency. A third approach- orientation to work- suggested that a focus on extrinsic or intrinsic reward is contingent on the person. However, the success of QWL initiatives depends on openness and trust, information management, organizational culture, partnership between management and workers. Equally important, responsibility of improving QWL is concerned, it should be jointly shared by employees, owners, union leaders and governments through legislations. The role of these stakeholders is most vital in protecting rights and interests of the workers and employees. Although with the increasing impact of liberalization and deregulation of economy, organizations in developed and developing countries are demanding for more autonomy in labour related decisions, provisions and mechanism of implementing QWL initiatives should come from employee engagement.

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The primary objective of the research paper is to understand the relationship between employee engagement and quality of work-life and secondary objective is to find out the constituents of an Equilibrium Quotient for the betterment of employees in future. The research is being conducted on the basis of secondary data and personal reviews.

Key Words: Employee, engagement, equilibrium, quality, quotient, work-life.

Introduction
If we trace back the history of business environment, in the early years, trading patterns and markets were stable, technology was static, customers were passive, speed in getting to market was secondary, competition was limited to sectors and regions, and hierarchies were generally accepted in all walks of life. No more, since 1960’s, America and much of the rest of the world has been almost continually buffeted by change. Customers demand that businesses do it better, faster, cheaper; employees want to control more than the "Stop" button on the assembly line. The 20th century saw nations around the world become part of the global village, with trade barriers between them reduced or removed completely. Globalization of trade and economy are taking deep roots in India. The holistic paradigm shift to a single global company has opened up new economic opportunities. Events of the previous century have focused our attention on knowledge industries. Quality human resources have therefore become an important base with which to respond to the emerging environment. The knowledge workforce in particular has a vital role to play in the emergence of the digital economy.

The term ‘Quality of Work Life’ (QWL) originated from the concept of open socio- technical system designed in the 1970s that helps to ensures autonomy in work, interdependence, and self-involvement with the idea of ‘best fit between technology and social organizations. Although the open socio-technical system is traditional concept for practice, it assumes that optimal system performance and the ‘right’ technical organization coincide with those job conditions under which the social and psychological needs of the workers are satisfied. To some, quality of work life refers to industrial democracy, increased worker participation in corporate decision-making, or a culmination of the goals of the human relations movement of two decades ago. To others, especially those in management, the term suggests any of a variety of efforts to improve productivity through improvements in the human rather than the capital or technological inputs of production. Unions and worker representatives often view changes in the quality of work life as leading to a more equitable sharing of the income and the resources of the working organization and to more humane and healthier working conditions.

Trends in Employee Engagement
It is the state of emotional and intellectual involvement that motivates employees to do their best work. Engaged employees deliver better performance, which is critical for business success. They understand their role in the business strategy, have a strong connection and commitment to the company, are more involved, and strive to go above and beyond in their jobs. The bottom line is that employee engagement matters—now more than ever. And the solutions for maintaining or improving engagement are increasingly complex for companies operating in an environment of instability and varied economic conditions. Striving to maintain a higher level of employee engagement not only contributes toward short-term survival during economic volatility, but is also a key factor for longer-term business performance and better positioning when market conditions become favourable. The companies that get engagement "right" will enjoy a source of competitive advantage in talent strategy and business results that is hard for others to replicate.

Current Practices
Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the cost implications associated with over-worked employees such as: operating and productivity costs, absenteeism, punctuality, commitment and performance. There are five main reasons why companies participate in work life balance programs: high return on investment, recruitment and retention of employees, legislation, costs and union regulations.

There are a wide variety of practices currently being used to help employees achieve work-life balance. It is important to note that some work-life balance programs help employees handle stress and otherwise cope more effectively while other programs help to reduce the absolute stress levels by rebalancing work life.

A growing number of employers have implemented wellness programs or pay for their employees’ gym membership as part of a benefits package. Some companies invite fitness trainers or yoga instructors into the office to hold lunchtime sessions.

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Some companies undertake initiatives to improve employees’ healthy eating habits. Others offer stress management programs which include stretching, yoga, counselling, as well as bringing in Registered Massage Therapists to work.

Many employers are offering longer vacation times. Additionally, some companies offer "flex" days. .

Human resources policies that can be used to increase work-life balance include implementing time off in lieu of overtime pay arrangements, providing a limited number of days of paid leave per year for child care, elder care or personal problems, or having policies around weekend and evening use of laptops and Blackberrys. There are some issues that arise when employees have flexible work hours such as lack of face-time with other staff and not being as available to clients; these issues can be solved by ensuring employees discuss scheduling with supervisor and let clients and other employees know their hours of availability. Sometimes in order to accommodate workers need for work life balance, firms may need to reduce the amount of work given to each employee. To accomplish this, employers can hire new people, reduce time spent in job-related travel, allow for job sharing, or reevaluate the work itself and how it is structured and organized with work process improvements and/or reengineering of work.

Elements of Employee Engagement
Understanding an organization’s engagement level is of little value without knowing what actions will be most effective in increasing engagement. This is a critical part of Engagement Model. Our research has shown that there are typically six major categories shown in the diagram below, known as "Engagement Drivers"—factors that can potentially drive an individual’s engagement.

The Engagement Model goes beyond measuring people’s satisfaction with each of these drivers. The model prioritizes the areas for improvement based on their potential impact and baseline performance. Another key premise of the Engagement Model is that the Engagement Drivers are interrelated; they do not operate in isolation.

The analysis describes the employment experience, what has changed, and what engages the current workforce. By identifying these drivers, employers can understand how to meet the needs of their employees and focus on the specific areas of improvement that have the largest impact on engagement and business results.

Opportunities to Improve Employee Engagement
Indeed it is shown that highly engaged employees demonstrate better quality, efficiency, and customer outcomes at a rate many multiples greater than the actively disengaged. Further opportunities in improving employee engagement can include:

Career opportunities: Engagement continues to be first and foremost about employees’ career paths. This has been challenging for many organizations that have seen delayed retirements and lower turnover (stagnant career advancement). Nonetheless, companies have significant opportunity to communicate a clear career path, prepare employees for the next role, and provide lateral growth opportunities for key employees. It is important to note that the line manager is typically the owner of this critical engagement driver.

Recognition: Employees need feedback and positive reinforcement to consistently go above and beyond. It is critical for quality of work-life and the engagement equation. Our data shows that the "Strive" component of engagement is increasing slightly despite the strain many organizations have been under as they manage cost and growth pressures.

Organizational reputation: Employees join organizations that have a reputation as a best employer. This driver is about connecting employers to the company, the mission, and the work beyond financial business performance, and why working with you offers them a compelling value proposition backed by a set of total rewards and a work experience that is not easily replicated elsewhere.

Communication: It is impossible for an employee to engage without connection, consistency, and commitment in messages. Effective and engaging communication resonates with the employee in rationally, emotionally, and behaviourally relevant ways. This means messages from leadership about business objectives, changes that are occurring, and what is required of employees need to put the employee at the center of the story. Corporate communications is the primary connection point between the majority of employees and executive leadership.

Managing performance: Effective performance management answers the question, "What should employees engage in?" Further, performance management is the mechanism that translates business performance objectives into set, focused individual objectives that enable true employee effectiveness. Organizations with high employee engagement scores, but low performance management effectiveness, might ask themselves, "Are employees engaged in the right behaviours? What are they engaged in?"

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Pay: Although pay does not show up as the top engagement driver, its prevalence indicates that many organizations are struggling with getting this fundamental component of the employment contract right. With pay freezes and a tightening economic environment, employees may be increasingly engaged by securing basic pay needs in addition to showing decreased appetite for pay at risk.

Enforcement of QWL Initiatives
The benefits of QWL initiative go to both employees and employers. Employees trust that with the presence of QWL initiatives they feel safe, relatively well satisfied and able to grow and thus can develop as human beings. They believe that QWL enhances their dignity through job satisfaction and humanizing work by assigning meaningful jobs, ensuring job security, making provisions for adequate pay and benefits, providing safe and healthy working conditions, giving opportunities to develop human capacity, ensuring growth and security, social integration, constitutionalism, getting freedom to self-expression and thus, help to increase individual productivity that supports to achieve organizational effectiveness. QWL positively nurtures a more flexible, loyal, and motivated workforce, which is essential in determining the company’s competitiveness. There is statistically significant correlation between measures of QWL and employee engagement in terms of market performance, stakeholder value, and business sustainability as well as differentiating competitive capabilities in terms of service quality, delivery, employee knowledge, flexibility, and technological leadership. Positive results of QWL reduced absenteeism, lower turnover, and improved job satisfaction. Certain areas of Employee engagement will further enhance the quality of work-life as mentioned below:

Having a say in workplace decisions

Flexible hours and schedules

Freedom to decide how to do job

Comfortable physical work environment

Receive recognition for work well done

Friendly and helpful co-workers

Good career advancement opportunities

Helps develop skills and abilities

Good relationship with supervisor

Challenging and interesting work

Good benefits

Receive training to do job effectively

Work that gives a sense of pride and accomplishment

Good pay

Good job security

Good balance between work and personal or family life

Trustworthy senior management

A healthy and safe workplace

Workplace free from harassment and discrimination

A look at the trends in managing people in this dynamic industry reflects that Attracting, Managing, Nurturing talent and Retaining people has emerged to be the single most critical issue in lieu of the enormous opportunities spun off by the market. The knowledge professional will gravitate to an organization that is flexible, has strong values, a robust performance ethic and provides challenging work on latest technology. This has led to companies proactively taking measures on three fronts. First, companies create an organizational ambience where talent can bloom. Second, they put in place systems that help unleash their potential and third, they build a reward and recognition mechanism that provides value for people.

Profound systemic changes have been seen in the way companies are structured. The concepts of leadership and managing people gave undergone a radical rethink. Cubicles, hierarchies and rigid organization structures of the past have now given way to open work environment, flat structure with informality being a general rule and empowerment of individuals. Today work itself is centered around projects, which have virtual teams working on them. This work structure has led to a culture of flexi time, round the clock accessibility to the workplace. Also catching up fast is the trend of workstations at home, remote access, video-conferencing and reporting by exception. To stay one step ahead of the aspirations of their people, companies are continuously striving to provide an intellectually stimulating environment. Few examples are in-house libraries, continuous up gradation of knowledge and skills, knowledge sharing, building relationships with academia thus enabling knowledge workers to pursue multiple careers within a single company.

Companies today are constantly striving towards enhancing the quality of work life and also the personal life of its employees and this does not stop with the employee but gets extended to his / her family as well. In-house health clubs, yoga and meditation centres to relieve stress, sports and cultural activities, employee get-togethers with invitations to come over with families, day care centres and many of the like are being provided by companies.

Employee Engagement and QWL: The EQ
Employees are a critical component to every organization, and their engagement serves as a barometer of organizational health. By examining employee engagement, employers can create an engagement improvement plan to address employee motivation, behaviour, productivity, and subsequently business results.

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Over the past three years, employers and employees have faced human capital challenges and uncertain economic conditions. The economic downturn that started in 2008 has had a significant impact on companies and the resulting decisions made by management. Further, the last few years of growth seen in emerging markets such as China, India, Brazil, and sub-Sahara Africa has forced a different set of management decisions to maintain engagement levels of employees who are proving challenging to attract and retain. These decisions have impacted employee engagement levels and perceptions globally.

Engagement is most often demonstrated when people exhibit behaviours associated with speaking positively about the organization (Say), having a desire to be a part of the organization (Stay), and willingness to make extra effort that contributes to organizational success (Strive).

A practical action that employers can take to deliver increased and sustainable employee engagement, first, organizations should focus on drivers that have the most impact on engagement. According to employees worldwide, the engagement drivers needing immediate attention are career opportunities, recognition, and organization reputation. To improve and drive a holistic engagement strategy, consider the following:

Create a culture of engagement through leadership: Before focusing on interventions associated with key drivers, it is worth noting something we see Best Employers doing that other organizations are not. Their leaders are serious about employee engagement—not a survey, but about having a positive impact on employees’ motivation to say great things about their company, to stay involved, and to go above and beyond. There is a "culture of engagement" that is created through multiple levers, including leadership ownership and sponsorship, engaging many stakeholders in the process, communication programs, ongoing engagement measurement and pulse checks, holistic processes around improving engagement, and holding people accountable for engagement results.

Focus on what matters most and where there is greatest opportunity for improvement: In a constrained environment, organizations will get the highest ROI in employee engagement efforts by focusing on the drivers that have the highest impact, opportunity for improvement, and likelihood of movement. Our analysis also indicates that a one-size-fits-all strategy likely will not work across the globe, so focus on employee segment will also be critical.

Recognize people’s efforts and performance: In today’s environment, where organizations are hamstrung by sluggish sales and the continued need for efficiency gains, employees appreciate and are motivated by recognition, often simple feedback from the manager for doing a good job. Employees are motivated by nonmonetary recognition—an important factor for employers to keep in mind. This type of recognition doesn’t carry a cost, and it is very important to employees.

Connect with your employees: Communicate and promote organizational reputation at every opportunity. Employees continue to be engaged when their organizations remain focused on strategies to be successful in the current environment, and in particular when organizations link employees’ everyday activities to the strategic imperatives of their organizations—even better, when they link to missions that give meaning and purpose (e.g., a hospital that saves lives, a consulting firm that improves the workplace of the future). Employees want to work for companies that manage performance in a strategically aligned way, and that are known as good organizations to work for.

Create employee growth opportunities: With a contracted job market, employees are increasingly looking to their current employers for job enrichment opportunities. However, in developed economies, cutbacks on everything from training budgets to reductions in force have left employees frustrated, disillusioned, and less engaged. Employees around the world understand that career opportunities in the traditional sense may be more difficult to secure during a sluggish economy, but that does not change how important this driver is to them. Employers should develop more creative or less traditional growth opportunities and help employees re-navigate expectations around development that supports business needs—lateral moves, special assignments, cross-functional training, etc.

Select employees predisposed to engagement: These are personality traits and natural dispositions that organizations have little control over. For example, traits such as positive affect and conscientiousness can be strong indicators of engagement behaviours. Further, managerial skills and competencies that promote team engagement can be assessed and used for selection during the employment recruitment process. Assessing potential employees for the traits that will most likely lead to engagement, in addition to the requisite knowledge, skills and ability, will likely be a trend we see more of in the future.

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For healthy employee relations (ER) it is necessary to have well defined policies and procedures as because reactive policies can’t continue for long. Growing competition, complex economic environment, rising labour costs, etc. compel organisations to adopt proactive strategies towards ER, while having proactive strategies; the organizations have to ensure achievement of corporate objectives through cooperation and commitment of employees. As the composition of workforce continues to change, companies focusing on quality of work life (QWL) of employees are expected to gain leverage in hiring and retaining valuable people. QWL is a comprehensive programme designated to improve employees' satisfaction. It is a way of thinking about people, work and organization and creates a sense of fulfilment in the minds of the employees and contributes toward greater job satisfaction, improving productivity, adoptability and overall effectiveness of an organization. It involves providing fair and consistent treatment to all employees so that they will be committed to the organization. Thus, good employee relations help in developing satisfied, committed and productive work force that lead towards overall effectiveness of an organisation. The continuous effort to bring increased labour-management cooperation through joint problem solving to improve organisational performance and employee satisfaction are key aspects of QWL. Unions can play a constructive role in QWL effort by sustaining and even enhancing its relevancy as a legitimate institution which represent the rights and interests of the workers. This encourages unions to take collaborative course and minimize adversarial and competitive tactics which brings employee satisfaction and better QWL in the work place. Mutual respect is the building block of the entire QWL movement. In an environment of mutual respect and clearly defined goals, both improvements in life at work and greater productivity realized. By mutually solving work-related problems, building cooperation, improving work environments, restructuring tasks, carefully and fairly managing human resource outcomes and pay offs, will benefit both labour and management. It is a commitment of management and union to support localized activities and experiments for increasing employee participation in determining work environment. It requires decentralization, responsive to customers, participative team and ability of workers to solve the problems without waiting for hierarchical approval. For this, organizations should start involvement of unions in participation process by establishing cohesive, supportive organized groups based on an educational strategy that analyses the work processes of the plant or office and comes up with a programme of reforms aimed at increasing individual autonomy, skills, social support, and empowerment. Labour-management relationship plays an important role in enriching QWL. High union responses are required in the QWL programmes like job redesign, upward communication, team based-work configurations and quality circles which will improve employee satisfaction and commitment. Union goals for employees include job security, dignity on the job, a safe and healthy work environment while union organisational goals include strengthening membership identification with the union, building solidarity, and developing organizational cohesiveness. Emphasis must be given on labour education programme for unions and union members on issues surrounding workers’ participation programmes to make a meaningful QWL.

Employees feel themselves as the strategic partners of the organization and help in implementation of organisational policies. It not only reduces the dissatisfaction among the employees but also increases their commitment towards the organization.

Conclusion
Evidence suggests that improvements in employee engagement practices, especially work time and work location flexibility, and the development of supportive managers, contribute to increased work-life balance. Work-life balance programs have been demonstrated to have an impact on employees in terms of recruitment, retention/turnover, commitment and satisfaction, absenteeism, productivity and accident rates.

Companies that have implemented work-life balance programs recognize that employee welfare affects the "bottom line" of the business. Parameters are required to ensure that programs are having the desired effect on both employees and the company. The new economy has given rise to a culture of working in teams. Today no job in the knowledge industry can be performed in isolation. Since working in teams is not a passing fad, companies are now designing a compensation structure, which rewards team performance in addition to employee engagement and individual performance.

To conclude, change is here to stay, and we need to understand that all the practices that are working today may not necessarily work tomorrow. Customers’ expectations, market changes and strategic decisions will derive the tools to managing the human assets.

Given the economic volatility we anticipate, employee engagement is critical—arguably more so than in more normal conditions. For large multinational employers operating in multiple regions, this means a one-size-fits-all strategy for engagement across the globe will not work. The employee engagement dynamics and resultant human capital interventions and outcomes may vary significantly depending on the industry or region of the model in which you operate. Regardless, one thing is certain—employees and their behaviour are at the center of business success (or failure). Ensuring that employees invest discretionary effort in the right behaviours will be critical in delivering the business results needed in conditions of recession, stagnation, or rapid growth. From the above discussion, it appears that our manufacturing organizations experienced negative consequence in the absence of QWL initiatives. What is required is the commitment on the part of government and employers to work on these initiatives and create a sound and harmonious industrial environment. It is concluded with suggested actions employers can take to improve engagement levels and become better positioned for future success.

It not only enhances the individual efficiency but also improves the organisational effectiveness by reducing accidents, work stoppages, grievances, absenteeism and turnover of employees. In general, one of the key outcomes is enhanced quality of work life which developed the whole gamut of human life by improving not only the quality of work life, but also the quality of life (QL) of the employees. Coming times will see sabbaticals forming part of the organization culture, corporate universities dotting the new horizon, competing companies bunching together to setup knowledge networks.
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